Philippines won’t ‘deviate from’ arbitration ruling on China

Philippines won’t ‘deviate from’ arbitration ruling on China

Reuters

The Philippines says it will not “deviate from” an international tribunal ruling that rejected China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea, but it must build trust with China before discussing sensitive bilateral issues.

China rejected the July 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague after the tribunal determined China had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

The ruling, on a case brought by the previous Philippine administration, soured relations with China. However, President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in the Philippines on June 30, 2016, has sought to engage China.

Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay, pictured, issued a statement on December 19, 2016, explaining that “revitalizing” ties with China was one of Duterte’s priorities and the government had been working to build “confidence and trust” with China.

“This we will continue to do for the foreseeable future, until such time that we achieve a trust level that will allow us to discuss the more sensitive issues in our bilateral relations,” Yasay said.

The government reaffirmed “its respect for and firm adherence to this milestone ruling” and would be “guided by its parameters” when tackling the issue of maritime claims in the South China Sea, he said.

“I also wish to reiterate what the president has stated in the past that he will not deviate from the four corners of the ruling,” the minister said.

Former Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario previously said he was disturbed by the government setting aside the tribunal ruling. “The foregoing declarations are most sadly being made after we had taken a firm rules-based position to defend what is ours — and won,” del Rosario said. “Now, we seem to be on a track to relinquish those gains that have been made to benefit our people.”

Del Rosario was instrumental in challenging China’s so-called 10-dash line on its maps, setting out its extensive South China Sea claim, and filing the case in The Hague.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waterway, where about U.S. $5 trillion worth of goods pass every year.

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